Ben Love has a busy schedule.
After spending a full day at school, the Minot High School junior is tasked with going to two different practices at roughly the same time. Love is a kicker on the football team and a defender on the soccer team and has made a habit of doing both sports equally well this season.
During a typical non-game day, Love goes to football practice - at around 3:30 or 3:45 p.m. - where he'll spend about 20 minutes kicking field goals and occasionally working on kickoffs. Then Love drives to the Optimist Soccer Complex to join his soccer teammates, usually just after warm-ups or conditioning drills are completed. Love doesn't mind the hassle one bit.
Minot High School junior defender Ben Love kicks a soccer ball as sophomore K.J. Wright watches during the Magicians’ practice Monday at Optimist Soccer Complex.
"I like them both," Love said. "They're both pretty fun. The games are just different."
Sophomore forward Ekow Annan calls Love one of the soccer team's leaders on the defensive side of the ball. There, Love is tasked with making sure his opponent doesn't come near the Magicians' net.
In football, the kicker boots field goals and extra points and sends kickoffs rocketing into the end zone for touchbacks. Love is a perfect 4-of-4 in field-goal attempts this season and MHS coach Barry Holmen said Love has made kicks from 50-52 yards during practices.
In soccer Love runs almost nonstop for 80 minutes. In football he paces the sidelines, waiting for the five or six plays in a game - if that - he'll be called upon.
The MHS football team hasn't needed a last-second field goal to win or tie a game this season, winning all five of its contests by nine points or more. But as he waits for his chance to enter a game, Love has the mindset that his next kick will be critical.
"You just gotta be thinking that the next kick is going to be the most important one," Love said. "Even if you miss, you gotta know that the next one could win the game."
It was his soccer coach who encouraged Love to play football. Cody Saunders played both sports for Minot High School, where he graduated in 2001, before going on to kick for the Minot State University football team.
When Love told Saunders he wanted to kick, Saunders was at the practice field kicking with Love and showing the then-freshman proper technique.
"I went and helped him out two years ago and I went and kicked with him," Saunders said. "He's going to be a good kicker. He can kick it harder than I could and I went to college for it."
Love, who finished 10th at state in both hurdles and pole vaulting last year as a member of the track team, loathes losing. He remembers the Magicians' football loss to Bismarck Century last year in the state semifinals, having his potential game-tying extra point blocked in the final minutes.
"I guess it kinda motivates you to work harder, get better and win more.. ... I just like to win," Love said. "I'm probably too intense."
Love's intensity carries over to the soccer team's practices.
"I think Ben's probably one of the most competitive players on our team," Annan said. "It can just be a sprint or a little competitive game in practice, he wants to win them all. ... (When he loses,) it's kinda disappointment mixed in with anger. But it'll subside and he'll get over it eventually."
Love has missed some soccer matches this season for football, but that trend will reverse when the soccer team enters postseason play.
Love said he may be out for the football game at Dickinson Oct. 5 and will be absent from the Oct. 11 homecoming game against Bismarck High to play soccer in regional and state tournaments.
"We know when we need him he'll be there," Annan said. "He's a really dependable player."